June 29, 2011
Greece approved the first of two austerity measures on Wednesday despite worsening street violence, in a vote vital to winning fresh international aid so it can pay its debts on time and stave off bankruptcy.
Lawmakers voted by a clear margin for the five-year framework of $28 billion in spending cuts, tax rises and state asset sales, handing a 155-138 vote victory to Prime Minister George Papandreou.
"We must avoid the country's collapse at all costs. Now is not the time to step back," the Socialist premier told lawmakers just before the vote.
The solid margin suggested the government should be able to push through a second package of laws on Thursday, implementing the specific budget measures and asset sales. This would clear the last obstacle to release of 12 billion euros ($17.3 billion) of emergency loans from the International Monetary Fund and European Union, which are essential to meet debt payments by mid-July.